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Address before the Institute of International Education and the World Affairs Council in Denver on June 15, 1988. Ambassador Bremer is Ambassador at Large for Counter-Terrorism.
Public opinion polls show that terrorism is a major concern of the American people. In fact, many Americans rank terrorism as a greater threat than the spread of nuclear weapons. Our major newspapers give extensive coverage to terrorism, carrying a terrorism-related story practically every day of the year. A single terrorist attack can capture the headlines for weeks, as the recent hijacking of a Kuwait plane did.
Our government, too, places top priority on fighting terrorism. As we have developed our policies, we have looked closely at our successes and failures in the battle. I would like to discuss these with you today.
In general, there are four important areas which can be counted as successes: the international community has had notable-but not universal-success in pressuring terror-supporting states; many of Europe's domestic terrorist groups have been shattered; airline hijackings are at the lowest levels in history; and, perhaps most importantly, in country after country the rule of law is being extended to terrorists. There are also some areas where we need to do better. I'll discuss these, too.
Western Pressure on Terrorist States
One of the key factors in recent terrorism is the support some countries give to terrorist groups. Terrorists supported by a sovereign state are exceptionally dangerous. State support allows terrorists to spend more time on operations and less on logisitics. And state support means terrorists have easy access to documents, money, weapons, and training facilities. That is why our government has developed a strategy to pressure states which support terrorists. This strategy has led to some of our important successes.
Until a few years ago, countries such as Libya and Syria spread terrorism throughout Europe, meeting little or no resistance. Some Western nations reacted defensively or simply allowed themselves to be intimidated by the terrorist bombings and murders. Others responded by trying to understand the "root causes" that motivated the terrorists. Still others offered the terrorists safe transit through their countries in return for promises by terrorists not to conduct attacks there. In contrast, for a number of years the United States unilaterally used economic and political pressures on Libya. But our repeated efforts to enlist the support of other countries failed. The uncoordinated efforts by the international community were unsuccessful.
Attitudes changed dramatically after the U.S. bombing of terrorist …